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158           MY    COUNTRY    AND   MY    PEOPLE


The nature and origin of footbinding has been greatly
misunderstood. Somehow it has stood as a symbol of the
seclusion and suppression of women, and very suitably so. The
great Confucian scholar Ghu Hsi of the Sung Dynasty was
also enthusiastic in introducing footbinding in southern Fukien
as a means of spreading Chinese culture and teaching the
separation of men and women. But if it had been regarded
only as a symbol of the suppression of women, mothers would
not have been so enthusiastic in binding the feet of their young
daughters. Actually, footbinding was sexual in its nature
throughout. Its origin was undoubtedly in the courts of
licentious kings, its popularity with men was based on the
worship of women's feet and shoes as a love-fetish and on the
feminine gait which naturally followed, and its popularity
with women was based on their desire to curry men's favour.

The time of origin of this institution is subject to debate,
which is somewhat unnecessary, since it would be more proper
to speak of its "evolution." The only proper definition of
footbinding is the binding of the feet by long yards of binding
cloth and the discarding of the socks, and this seemed to be
first definitely mentioned in connection with Nant'ang Houchu,
in the first part of the tenth century, or before the Sung
Dynasty. Yang Kweifei (T'ang Dynasty) still wore socks, for
one of her socks was picked up by her amah and shown to the
public after her death, at the admission rate of a hundred cash
a person. Rapturous praise of women's small feet and their
"bow-shoes" had become a fashion in the T'ang Dynasty.
The c'bow-shoes," with upturned heads like the bow of a
Roman galley, were the beginnings or rudimentary forms of
footbinding* These were used by the dancing girls of the court,
and in this luxurious atmosphere of female dancing and court
perfume and beaded curtains and rare incense, it was natural
that a creative mind should have appeared and put the last
finishing touch to this sensual sophistication. This creative
mind belonged to the ruler of Nant'ang (Southern T'ang, a
short-lived dynasty), who was an exquisite poet besides. One